http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-storie ... -22650172/
It stands as the starkest reminder of the Nazi genocide machine.
The Auschwitz extermination camp, where more than a million died during the Second World War, was the chilling centre-piece of Hitler's Final Solution.
But today the camp is rotting away and needs a £120million restoration if it is to be preserved as a haunting yet necessary memorial to the inhumane horrors inflicted on its prisoners.
As one British volunteer put it: "It's a warning to the world that the Holocaust should never happen again."
The wooden guard towers here are splintering and the barracks - where up to 10 prisoners were forced to cram into each slatted bunk - are falling down.
Auschwitz, liberated more than 65 years ago by Soviet troops, was built on boggy ground between two rivers in southern Poland by untrained prisoners.
So the high groundwater and bad drainage has rotted the foundations.
The worst affected part is Auschwitz II - Birkenau - which is just a short drive from the main complex.
On arrival there, the infamous main entrance dubbed the Gate To Hell dominates the flat landscape.
The sheer scale of the death camp, which stretches as far as the eye can see, is shocking.
This place was literally the end of the line for the Jews who arrived by rail in their thousands. Families were separated on the platform into two groups by the flick of a Gestapo finger.
The weak, ill or disabled were taken to one of four huge gas chambers, where their lives were extinguished.
The crumbling remnants of Auschwitz stand as a grim lesson.
But Rafal Pióro, deputy director of the museum, says: "The conservationists say we need to start work in the next two years if we are to avert irreparable decay, so we need to act now.
"This place today has more and more meaning, because there are now fewer survivors and witnesses to what happened - the place is the witness."
For the relatives of those killed here, it is vitally important that the world does not forget what took place.
Yet the task facing those struggling to repair the camp for future generations to see is huge and daunting. Walls are blissaving tering and starting to lean, roof frames are buckling, the plasterwork and paint on the walls is flaking.
The concrete floors are full of deep cracks from the annual frosts and the wear of hundreds of thousands of visitors tramping around the site every year.
The decay at Birkenau is clear to see.
Just four of the 45 brick barracks buildings are now deemed safe for members of the public to visit.
Wooden struts are all that prevent them from collapsing and museum workers must constantly dig out the drainage canals to stop flooding.
For the museum, it is a massive undertaking.
It oversees 155 buildings, some 300 ruins and other remnants - including the four gas chambers and crematoria that are of particular historical significance.
Estimates put the repair of each barrack room at £78,000 and the 27 wooden guard towers need to be reinforced at an annual cost, for the next 14 years, of £62,000.
Our guide at Auschwitz, Pawel Sawicki, explains: "The Birkenau part of the museum is in particular need of repair, it is very badly damaged.
"The prisoners' barracks stand on marshy ground and the soil there is moving all the time.
"The building's foundations are cracking during each spring thaw, each year getting worse and worse until more and more simply falls away.
"Add to that the sheer volume of people walking around in the camp, people from all over the world who feel a great need to come here to pay tribute and to see Auschwitz for themselves. With every year that passes it gets harder and harder to patch up the buildings and make them safe for people to visit."
Displayed on many of the barracks are signs saying "Closed for Conservation".
Interestingly, these were donated to the museum by generous Barry Miles, who runs a sign-making firm in Gloucester.
He offered his services for free and regularly sends new signs in the post.
"It's with the help of people like Barry that we are able to keep the museum going," says Pawel. The theft last year of Auschwitz's sinister sign declaring Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets you free) underlined the hard task for those trying to preserve the death camp.
Barry, 42, adds: "It is terrible that the museum is falling into disrepair.
"Every country in Europe has a responsibility to keep the museum going. It stands as a warning to the world that the Holocaust should never happen again."
Barry offered the services of his familyowned business Hanman Split after visiting the museum with his brother last year. "We were both deeply affected by what we saw. I can't afford to make a donation so I said I would make them some signs."
So far, the museum has raised £81million. Germany has pledged £60million, the USA £15million and Austria £6million - but Britain has yet to step in with a contribution. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the camp in April last year and, plainly upset by what he had seen, promised: "We will join with other countries in supporting the retention of the memorial at Auschwitz."
It was believed Britain could come up with £10million - but David Cameron has not yet honoured the pledge.
And with the axe falling on public spending in Britain, the museum fears that money will not be not forthcoming.
Museum deputy director Rafal says: "We are still talking with the British government about whether they are willing to help with the costs."
The funding drive was launched after a review of the condition of the site.
Rafal insists Auschwitz could not simply be given a makeover because that would undermine its claims to authenticity.
"We know if we don't get more money we won't be able to present this authentic place to future generations.
"To run the museum we need about £5million a year. And that's just on a basic level. It is certainly not enough to preserve the site on a long-term basis.
"We feel responsible for the place and the message this place can give to everyone who wishes to visit the site."
With £120million needed for long-term conservation of the camp, Rafal also points to the preservation of the masses of property taken from prisoners before they were gassed which are now exhibited at the museum.
It has 460 artificial limbs, to 80,000 pairs of shoes, 40kg of discarded spectacles, 260 prayer garments and 3,800 suitcases which belonged to those who ended their journey in Auschwitz. Eight full-time conservationists work to preserve each item.
Rafal adds: "The work must be constant and systematic so that the survival time of the object is as long as possible."
Brothel, Clinic, Library, Maternity Ward ...